This story is a bit long but I hope you find it worth the read. There’s a twisty ending and shocking photos, oh my! Lots of my Capitol Hill memories revolve around Sahara Manor, where I rented my very first apartment in the fall of 1973. Recently I googled the building to see how it was holding up, but apparently the internet had never even heard of it. I lived there so long ago, I couldn’t remember what street it was on. But I did remember the Egyptian motif, with stick-figure Egyptians walking like… well, Egyptians across the lobby walls, and the abundance of plastic potted palm trees which transformed the hallways into an oasis. What a fun place to stagger home to after a long day at work!
Frustrated by the lack of internet information, I summoned Google Maps, pointed it at Capitol Hill, turned on Street View and began ‘driving’ down every street below Broadway and between Pike Street and Denny Way. I knew that my building—if it hadn’t been demolished—was in there somewhere. And then, as I cruised down Summit Avenue between Olive and Pine, I saw it! I recognized the front of the building and its distinctive pebble-and-cement entrance ramps.
Now I realized why I hadn’t been able to find Sahara Manor online. The building was now called Summit Place. With better information to search on, I quickly found the building’s website, and, to my glee, the owner’s name and email. Just to be sure my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me, I poked around the website’s apartment layouts to be absolutely sure I was remembering the right building, and was very happy to find my floor plan, exactly as I remembered it.
I only glanced at a couple of the site’s interior pictures. The apartments had been completely remodeled, so new pictures didn’t mean that much to me. Still, it was nice to know that a remodel would have banished the drab grey scratchy carpeting, and more importantly, the particle board lattice divider screen that separated my living room from the dining area.
Oh, that divider. I couldn’t stand it. The cutouts had rough edges that made it impossible to clean. The design gave off ‘cheap motel’ vibes. I did my best to ignore it, but wished on a daily basis that it didn’t exist. But now, I felt a sense of relief, as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was happy in the knowledge that the lattice divider had been banished from the planet.
I emailed the owner and explained my interest in his building. I mentioned that I was particularly interested in the Egyptian hieroglyphics wallpaper in the lobby and the plastic palm trees in the hallways. I asked if he had any older pictures of the building from before the remodel.
He replied just a few hour later. Sadly, he didn’t include any pictures but he was happy to talk about the building. He responded with a nice chatty email. Here’s the important bit. “I purchased the building in 1984 from the original owner. He was an attorney and his name was Stuart Swamberg. He purchased it from the builders, Birkland and Tashner, who built it in 1965. Two years after I purchased what is now called Summit Place, I removed the Egyptian and hallway wall paper. Most all of the units have been upgraded with hardwood floors etc. I still have all of the wood lattice that your referring to.”
No. That had to be a mistake. A typo. I cleaned my glasses, shook my head to clear it and read that email again. As a chill crawled up my spine, I quickly summoned up the Summit Place website again and this time I looked through all the photos. And what I found was unthinkable. This couldn’t be real. This was a cosmic joke.
He’d torn down the Egyptian hallway wallpaper, but he’d kept the lattice dividers in all the apartments! For all I know, those lattices are eternal all-powerful beings and cannot be destroyed. It’s a good thing I’m 2,300 miles away these days. Maybe he didn’t hear me scream.